Cardiopulmonary bypass patients undergoing heart valve replacement surgery appear to be under oxidative stress, when compared with normal healthy controls, by showing increased levels of protein and lipid damage. During bypass surgery two further episodes of oxidative stress occur. The first is seen when patients are placed on extracorporeal blood circulation and oxygenation which results in a rise in lipid peroxides and thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances. The second phase of oxidative stress occurs during reperfusion of the myocardium following removal of the aortic cross clamp. Coincident with evidence of increased oxidative damage to lipids during these latter phases of oxidative stress were decreases in plasma iron-binding and iron-oxidising antioxidant activities.